Education in Britain

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Today many university science and technology departments, for example at Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Imperial College London, and Strathclyde, are among the best in Europe. The concern is whether they will continue to be so in the future. Academics' pay has fallen so far behinc other professions and behind academic salaries elsewhere, that many of the best brains have gon< abroad. Adequate pay and sufficient research funding to keep the best in Britain remains a majo challenge.

As with the schools system, so also with higher education: there is a real problem about the exclusivity of Britain's two oldest universities. While Oxbridge is no longer the preserve of a social elite it retains its exclusive, narrow and spell-binding culture. Together with the public school system, it creates a narrow social and intellectual channel from which the nation's leaders are almost exclusively drawn. In 1996 few people were in top jobs in the Civil Service, the armed forces, the law or finance, who had not been either to a public school or Oxbridge, or to both.

The problem is not the quality of education offered either in the independent schools or Oxbridge. The problem is cultural. Can the products of such exclusive establishments remain closely in touch with the remaining 95 per cent of the population? If the expectation is that Oxbridge, particularly, will continue to dominate the controlling positions in the state and economy, is the country ignoring equal talent which does not have the Oxbridge label? As with the specialisation at the age of 16 for A levels, the danger is that Britain's governing elite is too narrow, both in the kind of education and where it was acquired. It is just possible that the new Labour government, which itself reflects a much wider field of life experience in Britain, will mark the beginning of significantly fuller popular participation in the controlling institutions of state.

Present situation

The educational system - its organization, its control, its content - is changing rapidly to meet the perceived needs of the country - the need to improve standards and to respond to a rapidly changing and competitive economy. Those changes might be summarized in the following way.

First, there is much greater central control over what is taught. Second, what is taught is seen in rather traditional terms - organized in terms of subjects rather than in response to the learning needs of the pupils. Third, however, there is an attempt to be responsive to the economic needs of the country, with an emphasis upon vocational studies and training. Fourth, there is a rapid expansion of those who stay in education beyond the compulsory age, making use of the «three-track system» of «A» Level, GNVQ (General National Vocational Qualifications) and NVQ (National Vocational Qualifications). Fifth, although the content of education is centrally controlled, its «delivery» pays homage to the «market» by encouraging choice between different institutions so that funding follows popular choice (i.e. the more popular the school with parents, the more money it gets, thereby providing an incentive to schools and colleges to improve their performance.

Education under Labour


ducation was the central theme of the new Labour government. It promised a huge range of improvements: high-quality education for all four-year-olds whose parents wanted it and lower pupil-teacher ratios, in particular that children up to the age of eight children would never be in classes of over 30 pupils. It also declared that all children at primary school would spend one hour each day on reading and writing, and another hour each day on numeracy, the basic skills for all employment. When Labour took office only 57 per cent of children reached national literacy targets by the time they left primary school, and only 55 per cent reached similar targets in maths. The government pledged to raise these proportions to 80 per cent and 75 per cent respectively. It also established a new central authority responsible for both qualifications and the curriculum, to ensure that these were, in the government's own words, 'high quality, coherent and flexible'. It warned that it intended to evolve a single certificate to replace A levels and vocational qualifications, and possibly to reflect a broad range of study rather than the narrow specialism of the A-level system. Because 30 per cent of students who started A-level courses failed to acquire one, it also wanted to create a more flexible system that would allow students still to attain recognised standards of education and training on the road to A levels. However, unlike France or Germany, an increasing proportion of those taking exams at this standard were actually passing.

The government also promised to improve the quality of the teaching staff, with a mandatory qualification for all newly appointed heads of schools, to improve teacher training, to establish a General Teaching Council, which would restore teacher morale and raise standards, and to introduce more effective means of removing inefficient teachers. It also promised to look at the growing problem of boys underachieving at school compared with girls. Finally, Labour asked for its record to be judged at the end of its first term in office, in 2002.

Реферат опубликован: 20/09/2009